For me, there is a difference between storytelling and writing. Some authors are excellent storytellers, others are excellent writers, and some are both. I am not a fan of JK Rowling’s writing style but she is one of my favorite storytellers. The same can be said of Lovecraft – but I think some of that is situational, given his contemporaries. I can’t think of writers who write better than their stories would allow off the top of my head because, for me, the story is the more important part but I know I’ve thought it while reading.
There are a lot of writers I’d like to grow up to be like. Gibson, Dick, King, Roberts, Arakawa, Harris. I could go on forever actually – I really love books and writers. Of all of them though, I think Harris and Gibson are probably the most balanced between storyteller and writer. I’m not saying the others are bad writers, they aren’t by any stretch, but I think for me, they’re storytelling skills are stronger.
When I think about my all-time favorite stories, whether because of skill or plot, the one thing they have in common are well written, complete characters. Hannibal Lecter is far and above my favorite villain – he is the most fully realized villain, he’s wicked, wicked smart, crafty, seriously broken, and deliciously horrible. And if you get to the end of his story, all that he does, all that he is, makes sense. And Harris makes it all make sense without once excusing any of it. Hannibal is absolutely a terrible person, even if it makes sense why he might be, it isn’t used to negate his evil. That’s a talent.
I think villains speak to me a little more loudly than heroes. Yes, I love Dallas, Charlie, the Elric brothers, Case and Molly, but they just don’t resonate with me quite as much. I think it’s more that a good villain is so hard to find, relatively speaking. It’s hard to write broken and evil and irredeemable and still have people care one whit about them. Good villains are charismatic, unapologetic, and understandable.
Good characters and good writing aside, one can be a passable writer and still succeed, if the story is strong enough. They say there is only a finite number of stories one can tell and, that may be true, but there are infinite ways of telling that story. Don’t look at whether or not something has been done before – a case can nearly always be made that it has – focus on writing your version of that story in a way no one else can.
How many stories about kids going to magical schools are there? Harry Potter, Ms. Peregrin, the Magicians, and there are probably a solid hundred more out there. Write another one, make it yours, make it amazing. Hidden realms are everywhere – including my own books. Monster hunters, chosen ones, witches, wizards, nothing is off limits.
Apparently, I’m having a scatterbrained sort of writing day – I’d meant this post to be entirely about writers I want to grow up to be and I completely veered off topic. I’m letting it stay that way because I don’t think another pass at it would make it better.